Upper School Students Work with a Ballet Master

Thanks to a Supporting CAST grant, 11 Upper School ballet students worked with guest choreographer Er-Dong Hu, Professor of Theatre and Dance at Bucknell University. Twenty-six FWCD Upper School students auditioned on Friday, September 29, for 11 spots to work with Hu on setting an original piece every day this week in the ballet studio. Lizann Bonin ’18, Faith Darrow ’21, Chloe Gilpin ’19, Alyssa Hughes ’20, Sophie McLarty ’18, Kacey Melton ’18, Gabby Pettit ’21, Kelly Pham ’21, Abby Shaffer ’19, Madison Smith ’20 and Will Tuomey ’20 were selected to participate in this CAST grant experience.
Hu had not considered a professional dance career for himself until the People's Republic of China made that decision for him. During the Cultural Revolution in China, government officials visited elementary and middle schools to choose dancers by look and body type. “They never asked how you danced,” Hu said. “They weren't interested in children who had a lot of training already because in China the philosophy is if you are already trained, you might have developed bad habits that are too hard to change. They wanted a clean slate. They came in and said, ‘We are going to train you to become a dancer.’”
Luckily for Hu, then 12, training at the Beijing Dance Academy came naturally. He toured with the academy for several years and was inducted into its Hall of Fame. “In China, when you are an artist, you are honored, but it requires a lot of hard work to get to that point. I became one of the best in my field of Chinese traditional dance,” Hu said. “After graduation, you don't have to worry about a job, since they want good dancers to stay at the school and teach. There really isn't a choice, and that is part of the reason I came to the U.S. I really wanted to dance professionally after the academy.”
Hu came to the U.S. as a student in the MFA program at the University of Iowa and then became principal dancer with the Dayton Ballet, where he also taught men’s classes, pointe and partnering. He was the first Chinese dancer to receive the Outstanding Performance Achievement Award from Dance Magazine.
At Bucknell, Hu teaches all levels of ballet, pointe-variations, dance composition and Chinese water-sleeve. “The students at Bucknell are very open minded about different forms of dance. My students often arrive with strong fundamental training, and I really enjoy working with them because they have so much passion about dance," Hu said. “Whether you become a doctor, lawyer or Wall Street professional, success requires dedication and discipline. The same is true with dance.”
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Fort Worth Country Day (FWCD) is a K-12 private, independent, coeducational, nondenominational college-preparatory school located on approximately 100 acres in Fort Worth, Texas. The mission of Fort Worth Country Day School is to foster the intellectual, physical, emotional, and ethical development of capable students through an academically rigorous college preparatory program that integrates the arts and athletics.